I overheard a conversation recently that got me thinking. What do you do when you have to support a project that you don’t believe in? It’s a valid question and one that most of us will face at some point during our careers.
As a human resources professional, I’ve repeatedly had to support projects that I don’t personally believe in. A great example is the company’s benefits open enrollment. The corporate offices make a decision that doesn’t help me personally. But it’s good for the company. At a local level, I need to support it. I can see why the decision was made and, while it doesn’t help me, it works for the company. Or it works for a majority of employees.
But let’s say it’s not that type of situation. It’s a situation where you don’t believe the organization is making the right decision. But you’re being asked to support it. Maybe you’re even being asked to be the spokesperson for how great the change is. The company knows if you are singing its virtues, then others will listen. The problem is…you don’t believe in the project (or idea).
You have to resolve this. First, if you try to sell people on an idea that you don’t believe in, your intended audience will know it. I know, I know…people say they’re good at faking it. Truth is we’re never as good as we need to be. Somebody will see through it and ultimately, your credibility takes a hit. Second, if you don’t go on the record, then you’re saying that you agree with the decision. If it is bad, you can’t go back afterward and say, “I never agreed with it in the first place.” Others will look at you and say, “Why didn’t you speak up?” – another credibility hit.
Here are a few things to consider if you’re being asked to support a project you don’t believe in.
Know the difference between supporting the project and supporting the team. Even the best teams make bad decisions. It happens. Decide if your challenge is with the team or with the project. If it’s with the team, then there are trust issues that need to be resolved. There are times when I feel very comfortable supporting the team even though I don’t believe the project will work.
Clearly understand your heartburn with the project. Are you adamantly opposed to it? Or are you just unsure it’s going to work? Let’s assume your issue isn’t with the team. It’s with the idea or project you’re being asked to support. On a scale of 1 to 7 (1=no confidence at all, 7=all in with the project) figure out where you are on the scale. Don’t use an even number where you can ride the middle.
Think of compromises. It’s possible that when you share your concerns, the group will ask what it will take for you to support the project. Come prepared with an answer. If you don’t, it will look like you didn’t give the project enough thought. Also, it’s not naïve to hear that the decision isn’t negotiable. Come prepared with an answer for that too.
Consider what will happen if you’re wrong. Yes, think about this. If you’re going on the record, then be prepared to be wrong…and be gracious about it. Unless you plan to resign over this, you will still have to work with the team and you want them to respect the position you took, the reason behind it, and the way you handled the outcome.
NOW, be prepared to voice your position. The first four steps got you ready for this one. It takes a lot of courage and a lot of homework to express that you’re not supportive. You can let the team know that you’re supportive of them. Tell the group how much support you’re prepared to give.
Organizations make decisions all the time that we have heartburn with at some level. On occasion, we need to speak up and express our reservations. Our personal credibility is at stake.
Image courtesy of HR Bartender0